Title Lost Your Buttons
Word Count 460
Lost Your Buttons
“Oh-- a man!” The words terminated in a childlike squeak. The child in the cross-trees forgot himself, and in forgetting was only a child, after all. Horror had stripped adult trappings away.
Horatio could see the man now, too, in the debris in the water. He was entangled in a torn bit of canvas, and line. His body was limp, white. He was wearing a shirt only, and most of it was up under his arms. The air was spring already but the water was as cold now as the ocean can get, Horatio thought,. The man's head was out of the water – mostly. He was not moving, that Horatio could see, and he was dead then, had to be dead. But as the thought came to the surface of Horatio's mind, as if to argue, the mans hand gave a twitch. It was a big white hand, clear against the darker water, and it was the sort of twitch that comes at the edge of sleep. Horatio could not take back the seeing of it.
He heard himself shouting. He supposed his orders must be appropriate, he knew them only as a loud gabble of sound. They dried to nothing as his gaze came back to Archie. Archie who was closest, standing already at the rail.
Archie had ripped the buttons off his jacket, leaving it behind. Now he would have to sew them all back on. He had time to think that on the way down, as the falling took him, and he had that moment to gasp before he hit the water. Then he could not gasp. His chest kicked, he bucked, agonized, but only a moment, and he was pushing off toward the man. He had the line now, over his shoulder, a bit of the Indy, to reel him home. They would both need it, he was drooling from the cold already. He could feel it, warmer on his chin than the slapping ocean. He had only a minutes before he was helpless too. But he had his head up now. The chop was bigger down here of course, but he could see the drowned man. Archie swam on the surface like dog. Sharp things that tore at him as he moved over them. The water struck his throat and face, he spat it out over and over. His throat hurt.
Now, now he was at the canvas. The man was naked but for a shirt and one shoe. Archie had time to see the pale bare foot, elegant toes, perfect as a painting. He wrapped the line around them both, raised his arm, and waved big. Horatio would be watching, he knew, to bring him safe home.